After getting a much-needed road victory at Wisconsin Friday night Purdue has a chance to gain some momentum and really build on its NCAA profile. This week we get two home games. The first comes against Rutgers, who has improved, but is still tragically Rutgers. The second comes against our hated rivals in Indiana.
The Scarlet Knights are at least better now. They have a NET ranking of 114, which, while not great, is well above their days a few years ago when they were in the 300s. Steve Pikiell at least has them playing some feisty basketball and they can now challenge good teams. They only have 12 wins against Big Ten opponents since joining the league in 2014-15, but they just stunned Ohio State and they made a nice little run to last year’s Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Purdue is still 7-0 against them since they joined the league and that includes three wins over them last season.
From: Piscataway, NJ
Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Tip Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
NET Ranking: 112
2017-18 Record: 15-19, 3-15 Big Ten
2018-19 Record: 8-7, 1-4 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: On the Banks
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 11-1
Last Rutgers Win: 81-73 on 12/4/1975 in New York, NY
Last Purdue Win: 82-75 on 3/2/2018 at Madison Square Garden (Big Ten Tournament)
NCAA Tournament History: 6 appearances, last in 1991. Reached 1976 Final Four
Coach: Steve Pikiell (32-42 in 3rd season at Rutgers, 229-216 in 32 th season overall)
Rutgers has already proven to be dangerous this year. They actually did their part in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by winning at Miami 57-54. They also pushed Seton Hall in a neutral site game and plays some solid basketball at home against Michigan State and at Wisconsin. That all peaked on Wednesday when they stunned No. 16 Ohio State in Piscataway 64-61. It is their biggest conference win since stunning No. 4 Wisconsin back in 2015.
Rutgers has improved thanks to a solid defense. They are 6th in the league, limiting opponents to 65.5 points per game. Their own scoring is still not great (13th at 68.4 ppg), but they do play stout defense and make opponents work for baskets.
The Scarlet Knights only have two players averaging in double figures for the season. Eugene Omoyuri, a 6’7” junior forward, averages 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Geo Baker has been pretty good as well at 13.2 points and 4.5 assists per game. The consistency after those two drops off dramatically. Omoyuri dislocated his kneecap against Ohio State and will miss this game.
Peter Kiss, Montez Mathis, and Ron Harper Jr. all average better than 6 points per game with Kiss up at 8.4, but this is not a team known for its offense. As a team they shoot a Big Ten worst 30.6% from three.
So how did they beat Ohio State? Well, it helps that the Buckeyes went cold in the final 2:37 and didn’t score a point. Mathis scored on a pair of baskets and Baker hit a long two with 13 seconds left for the final margin. They led by 10 before falling behind 61-58, but recovered for the win.
They did have the advantage of playing at home, however. Winning on the road in the Big Ten has been hard for any Rutgers team to do. They managed to take Michigan State to overtime in East Lansing last season, but they have not won a conference road game since at Penn State on February 4, 2017. In fact, that is their ONLY Big Ten road win since joining the league, making them a dismal 1-37 away from Piscataway in league play.
The bottom line is this: Rutgers is better, but not better enough that they should be coming to Mackey Arena and winning games. Mackey is Mackey for a reason, and it is not built on losses to Rutgers. A loss in this game, especially after a solid road win, would be devastating.